Sunday, February 17, 2013

Watch the colourful side of Mercury

Here it is - something very adorable and colourful for the sky gazers and the amateur astronomers:

The colourful side of Mercury !!

BBC reports that Scientists working on NASA's Messenger probe to Mercury have shown off a stunning new colour map of the planet. It comprises thousands of images acquired by the spacecraft during its first year in orbit.

The phenomena is sxplained by Dr David Blewett from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab:
"Messenger's camera has filters that go from the blue to the near-infrared of the spectrum, and we are able to use computer processing to enhance the very subtle but real colour differences that are present on Mercury's surface." 
"The areas that you see that are orange - those are volcanic plains. There are some areas that are deep blue that are richer in an opaque mineral which is somewhat mysterious - we don't really know what that is yet."
"And then you see beautiful light-blue streaks across Mercury's surface. Those are crater rays formed in impacts when fresh, ground-up rock is strewn across the surface of the planet." 

Those features are thought to arise when the CO2 ice sublimates away - that is, when it transforms directly from a solid state to a gaseous state.

Mercury's surface isn't made of ice - it's scorching hot next to the Sun. But it seems that there is some sort of sublimation-like loss in the solid, silicate rocks that is causing these hollows to initiate and enlarge.

Messenger is in great shape should NASA management agree to a mission extension. The probe is thought to have enough fuel to operate until 2015.

Read more about it at: BBC Science & Environment